Organizers tempted students with food and fanfare to explore the history of Caribbean blacks last Tuesday at the first annual Caribbean Day.
An event extended through the afternoon, with festivities that included Caribbean music, posters and displays of Caribbean heroes, three-dimensional maps of the islands, and homemade island food.
The event was sponsored by the Caribbean Student Association [CSA], in cooperation with the United Black Students organization. La’Vern Browne, senior at UM, president of CSA, and a Caribbean native, came up with the idea to help promote Black Awareness Month at UM.
“I want people to know that African-Americans weren’t the only blacks to go through slavery and forced assimilation,” Browne said. “Caribbeans have a valid and interesting culture that is not often explored or displayed in Miami.”
“It’s all around us and most people don’t know,” said Browne, referring to the many Caribbean influences in North American culture today, such as performer Wyclef Jean, one of the ‘founders’ of Chicago. Browne also pointed out that steel drum music is native to the Caribbean.
The Organization for Jamaican Education gave a speech dispelling the myths and legends surrounding the Rastafarian culture, which is predominantly practiced in the West Indies.
The main attraction of the day was Haitian guest speaker Guitele Jeudy Rahill, author of the book Violated.
Published in May 2001, the book describes the life of an eight-year-old girl who is ostracized after her family moves to America. The girl is raped, partially because of her ‘foreignness,’ as the book suggests.
In a family preoccupied with voodoo curses and burdened by incest, the girl struggles to assimilate into North American culture. She overcomes her past and-unlike other victims of racism-speaks out for justice, eventually finding her place in the world.
Rahill gave an informative lecture and was available for questions and a book signing session afterwards.
Browne estimated about 75 people stopped by Caribbean Day on the patio.
The organization, she said, is happy with that number.
“We just want to give people the opportunity to learn about the Caribbean and see what it’s about,” Browne said.
Rahill agreed on the importance of educating students about different cultures.
“My book and the Caribbean culture, in general, touches on many aspects of life, including psychology and women’s studies, as well as the obvious cultural issues, like food, ceremonies, and family life,” Rahill said.
CSA plans to make Caribbean Day an annual event. Rahill also hopes to return to UM for a lecture series in 2003.